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Kamelot Interview

September 26, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

This week, specifically Thursday Sept 23, 2010, I had the opportunity to interview (via phone) Thomas Youngblood, guitarist of the high-esteemed Kamelot. They are among my favorite bands and have released a handful of excellent, masterful records. Before anything, I would like to thank Thomas for his time, as well as Earsplit for their assistance in conducting this interview. So here you have it: the interview (skipping the personal introductions).

Thomas Youngblood

The Interview:

So, I was just wondering how Roy (Khan) was doing. Would you like to comment on that at all?

  • To be honest with you, there’s not a whole lot to comment on right now; we’re waiting for news. He’s going to the doctor again this week, I’m not sure what day, but the news coming out of Oslo from his side has been very minimal. I would say hopefully by this weekend we’ll have more information about what’s happening. That’s pretty much all I can say at this point.

Is it a high intensity situation?

  • I don’t really know, to be honest with you. I just know it’s a type of burnout thing that he’s going through, so it’s not something with his voice or anything. Other than that, I really don’t know too much about it. I talked to him a little bit when he first told me he wasn’t going to be able to tour. From that point on, there hasn’t been a whole lot of communication. It’s an interesting situation, but I think by this time next week, we’ll have some more clarification on what’s happening.

We all wish him the best.

  • Absolutely.

So, what artists or genres in particular have the greatest influence on your music?

  • Hmm, I wouldn’t say there’s one particular artist or genre. I’ve been influenced by a lot of things, and Roy as well, who is also one of the music writers. I grew up listening to a lot of classic music, new-age music, also traditional metal; bands like Queensrÿche and Maiden. It’s hard to say there’s one particular artist or genre though.

How about regarding your new album? Would that have changed, or would it have been the same artists?

  • Well recently, let’s say the past five years, I don’t really listen to a whole lot of contemporary music in terms of metal and stuff like that. The influences on the past two or the records haven’t really changed. It’s still the stuff that I listen to that’s not really metal or hard rock, whether it’s classical or new-age music or soundtrack stuff, just to kind of get ambient ideas and fresh influences. We pretty much don’t listen to the other bands in the genre, mostly because we don’t want to be influenced by them.

Do you find yourself attracted to that style of music, the modern metal scene?

  • Nah, not really. I mean, there’s some cool stuff within each band. I have friends in different bands, whether it’s Nightwish or Sonata Arctica, and there’s always cool stuff in everybody’s album. It just depends on what your taste in music is. I like a lot of different types of music, so it’s hard for me to comment specifically, but I think that’s the cool thing about music. For example, there are people who love a certain band and people who hate a certain band, but the good thing is that somebody loves them, and who am I to say they suck? It’s a cool thing about music that it’s so objective and personal. The stuff that I might like, people might hate, you know?

Yeah, I get it. So on your new album, Poetry for the Poisoned, you took a new approach towards it, would you not say?

  • Yeah, I think every album is different; Ghost Opera is different from the Black Halo. I think with each record we always try to do things a little different, but always maintain Kamelot’s sound and signature approach to songwriting. The new album is a little bit more perverse and maybe a little more progressive than Ghost Opera was. In general, it’s a Kamelot record with some new twists and turns here and there; it’s not a huge departure from what we do. That’s my take on the new record.

Do you go into it with the mindset, “well, I’m going to do something different with this one”? Or do you write something and it naturally flows that way?

  • It depends, I mean it’s a little bit of both. Like on the song “Necropolis,” for example, the verse is very different from what we’ve done before. But in the end, I think it came out really cool. We wanted it to be a little bit weird and different. And then there’s songs, like “Hunter’s Season,” which is more of a traditional Kamelot-type song, where it’s got a 5/4 time signature and these kind of things. It’s important for us, and the fans, to deliver songs that will challenge the listener. But at the same time, on the record, we want to have songs that we feel is what people expect. It’s a fun sort of blend of both philosphies, I think.

Did having Sean (Tibbetts) back on bass have any effect on your approach or songwriting or anything?

  • No, not really, because the songwriting was pretty much done. But Sean’s big impact right now is the live side, I mean he is just an amazing performer. He brings out the best in everybody on stage, because you don’t want to be standing around while he’s kicking your ass on stage. We have a little bit of back-and-forth on stage to make sure nobody’s standing around looking at their feet. It’s important that we challenge each other to kick as much ass as possible live. I think on the next record, now that he’s in the band and there’s going to be more time, I think it would be cool to put him to have some ideas on the new record.

Did you consider any other bassist before going to Sean?

  • No, not at all actually. Originally, it was just a deal where Sean was filling in for Glen (Barry) on a couple shows. Then, it just got to where Glen didn’t want to tour, and after three years we we’re like, “wow, it’s been three years you’ve been filling in for Glen”. At that point, a lot of fans didn’t even know that Sean wasn’t even the bass player in the band. We knew this was the guy that would step in once Glen makes the decision that he can’t do this anymore, and that’s finally what happened.

How about the guest musicians? Did they volunteer, or did you pick them by hand?

  • We picked them randomly in a hat (laughs)… no. We had specific people in mind. For example, Björn from Soilwork – we wanted him for sure. We worked his part and a couple parts on the new album for Simone. With Gus G, it was a casual thing: “Hey dude, do you want to play on the new record?” “Yeah, sure!” And it went from there. And we had Jon Oliva on the album from Savatage and TSO, and that was kind of a last minute thing where we really wanted a character for this song “The Zodiac,” and he was the first guy that I thought about because it just fit his voice perfectly.

So, did you write these songs and gear them towards these people? Or did you feel that they had the fits towards these songs?

  • I think Roy wrote some of the parts for Simone based on knowing what her vocal range is, things like that. The other parts were mostly open to interpretation. The part that Jon did was already written, the vocal line, the melody and everything. We basically sent it to him and said, “do your thing on this,” and that’s what he did. It’s a mixture of both, it kind of depends on the person and the part.

Did you ever consider putting more than one musician on a song? Or did you like to spread them out for a particular reason?

  • No, I mean each song that we chose had a niche or a feeling that we had for it. We didn’t really think about putting more than one on a song. To be honest, we didn’t put a whole lot of thought into the parts that the guest musicians did. We were just working on a song and said “hey, let’s do some heavy vocals on here,” and these were the guys that we want to use or that we want to have on the record. We started at the top and Bjorn was available to do it, and that’s what we did.

How do you think this is going to work for live performances? Are they going to tour with you?

  • No. It’s the same thing with “March of Mephisto,” we had Shagrath on the album and video. Depending on the bands that are touring with us, for example the guy from Leaves’ Eyes, Alex, will come out and do the part of Mephisto. If he’s not doing it, I’d do it. It’s absolutely not necessary, we always have a female vocalist on tour. Recently, Elize Ryd from Amaranthe has been touring with us and she’s amazing. She can sing any of the stuff that has female vocals. Obviously, if we did Zodiac, it would be cool to have Jon Oliva come out and do that with us.

Is there any reason why your wife didn’t appear on the latest album?

  • That’s funny, somebody asked me that earlier… Not really, she’s been busy, we have two kids now; it’s just one of those things, I guess. But you know, I guess if there’s enough people asking about it I’m going to have to do that on the next record.

Would you care to comment on the album art?

  • It’s done by Seth Siro Anton by hand. He’s an amazing Greek artist that has done quite a few other bands before. We basically gave him the album title and he pretty much did everything else. I remember getting the first photoshoot from him with the two girls on the front, and just seeing that now from what it was is just amazing. And the inside is just packed with images and graphics. It’s the same philosophy that we’ve always had; to put as much into the music and as much into the artwork as possible.

For the mini-concept in your album, the “Poetry for the Poisoned” four tracks, is there any reason why you divided the tracks as so?

  • Well, I think each of the tracks has it’s own sort of spirit and feeling. To not separate them where as if you want to listen to two or three but there’s four, I don’t think that would have made sense. So, you can listen to the whole thing if you want or you can listen to each one individually.

And it does flow quite smoothly, too.

  • Yeah so you have all the options like this, you know?

Mhm, definitely. Is there any reason why you didn’t end the album with those songs? Because you did have “Once Upon a Time” after that.

  • The idea was to end the record in a different way with a song like “Once Upon a Time,” which was I guess you could say a more traditional Kamelot-double-bass-type song. And it kind of reminded me of the way we ended Black Halo with “Serenade,” you know, more of an uplifting type of feel than just ending it with “Poetry for the Poisoned”.

Where exactly did the inspiration come from behind the “Poetry for the Poisoned” concept?

  • The lyrics for the song itself – you’d have to talk to Roy. I know there’s some dark kind of element and ambiguous lyrical content. But the title itself was just a title that we had. It”s just a metaphor for society, for everybody that’s poisoned by something whether it’s politics or religion or alcohol. We’re all poisoned somehow by something, and it’s just a metaphor for that idea.

A little bit off-topic, but are you personally going to be reviewing the submissions for the poetry contest you’re having?

  • Absolutely! We have hundreds of them and I’m looking at them everyday. Everybody in the band is involved with that. There’s some amazing stuff and there’s some really bad stuff too (laughs). I started going through some of them and I have keepers and not-keepers. There’s some amazing stuff, very creative. Then there’s just some things that were… yeah well, you can tell when people put time into things. The bottom line is that people care about it and are doing their best and that’s really all you can ask.

That’s good that you’re doing that; not many people do that.

  • We have a new contest that’s going to come out too, with the bonus DVD that’s on the record, called pick and play. Guitar, keyboards, drums, bass – everything on there, you can do the part. You can take the drums out if you want; you can take the vocals out. We have a contest for that where people put their submission on our youtube page. At the end of the campaign, we’re going to pick two or three winners. It’s going to be fun to see people’s interpretations of a song and what they do with it; I’m looking forward to that. But you have to have the digipack to do it.

How do you feel that the new album compares to your older works?

  • Like I said earlier, I think it’s a bit more diverse than, for example, Ghost Opera; it’s a bit more progressive than what we’ve done in a while. There are some experimental things on there that might set some people off at first. But in general, it’s a Kamelot record. It’s an album that challenges everybody to be creative – to open their minds. It’s not a huge diversion from what we’ve done before, but it’s another step in our history.

Do you think it will be gaining new fans or dividing your fanbase a bit?

  • I don’t know. I think it will be gaining new fans like each record has done. It’s already charted higher than any record we’ve ever had. It’s already sold, this week, double of what the last record did. There’s always people with opinions about everything, and those are the people you hear the loudest. But in general, the response for the new record has been amazing. We don’t really think about that stuff too much. We do what we do, and that’s how we’ve done that for years. With each album that has grown, and I don’t see that changing.

What I found with the new album was that it was still a power metal album, but it was a step away. Would you not agree with that?

  • I don’t really think of Kamelot in those terms you know? I don’t think of us as a power metal band or a symphonic metal band. I mean, we’re a metal band with influences from all these genres. Even rock, plain straight rock, is an influence on the new record.

Where do you see your sound going in the future?

  • No idea, we don’t really think about that with this record. When we did Ghost Opera we didn’t think, “Okay, this is what Poetry for the Poisoned is going to sound like”. Those things evolve and happen over the time between now and when we start writing the new record. What it will be and how we evolve is totally unknown right now.

I know your new record just came out, but do you have any near future plans for videos or releases or side projects or anything?

  • Yeah, there’s some stuff going on. Solo record for me – side project. We’re going to be doing another video for the album and we’re not sure which song it’s going to be yet. So, there’s a lot of things going on. We have to reschedule the US tour and Canadian dates. There’s a lot to do and it’s all really exciting and we look forward to what the future brings.

Your solo project – who’s going to be involved with that?

  • I can’t really say that right now, but I’m very lucky to have a lot of friends that are great singers, great musicians. I think not only the Kamelot fans will like it, but the metal fans in general are going to dig it. I haven’t started recording it yet, but all of the basic ideas and the structure is there.

Are you taking the same approach as you do with Kamelot? Or is this going to be something totally different?

  • That’s hard to say because I am one of the songwriters for Kamelot. It’s got to be different, you know? But of course there’s going to be different vocalists, so that’s going to make it sound a bit different. It’s hard to say. I think it kind of remains to be seen once the songs start evolving. I’ll probably use different producers, so that’s going to make the sound a bit different. Right now, I can’t really think about it because I’m focused on the new Kamelot record, and we’re just dying to get back on the road and play some new songs and play old songs for the fans. That’s kind of where my mind is right now.

Speaking of producers, how involved are Sascha Paeth and Miro?

  • They’re definitely involved, Sascha probably more than Miro because he’s there from the beginning of the pre-production and when it comes to the guitar tracks and things like that. But yeah, the guys are definitely involved like the typical producer would be. If there’s a structure of a song that they don’t think is right, they’ll give suggestions and it’s up to us to agree with them and change it or maybe make modifications. Those guys are really great at what they do and they work with a lot of different artists. The cool things is that it’s not like a typical producer in metal, in that every band has the same sound. They work with Rhapsody, Edguy, Kamelot, and Epica – all of those bands sound different.

What do you think your future touring schedule will look like?

  • I think we have to hit the same places first, then do another second round of new cities that we didn’t do on the first one, which would include Western Canada.

Like Edmonton, right (laughs)?

  • Like Edmonton, Vancouver, or Seattle. None of those cities were on this original plan. We’re going to do at least two rounds of touring in North America on the new album.

So, you’ve been around for quite a while. Have your goals and accomplishments for the band changed at all?

  • Yeah, every year it changes. Every year that the band grows, my goals change because we achieve new goals with the band every time. You always want to go to the next level. With each album we’ve been able to do that, with each tour we’ve had bigger venues. It’s a great thing to be able to change your goals and to make them higher. Of course you could go, “I want to play in arenas on the next tour,” but that’s not realistic. You have to take steps that are realistic, and that’s what we’ve done. The band’s growth has been slow and gradual, but it has increased. And that’s really one of the cool things about our career: it’s still going up.

Is there anything specifically you want to accomplish? Or is it just general growth, at the moment, that’s in your mind?

  • Yeah, I think that’s a good, humble goal; just to generally just grow the band, play bigger venues, to be able to do a bigger production that, in the back of your mind, you want to do. We started out just playing in the backdrop and that is growing in to doing full-blown pyros, lasers, and things like that in Europe. It’s always good to stay humble, stay hungry, and remember what’s the most important, and that’s the fans.

Are there any bands in particular you would recommend to your fanbase?

  • No, not really, I don’t listen to a lot of music other than regular classical stuff. There’s plenty of ways for fans to check out stuff out there, and I don’t want to be an influence on them. Let them find these things on their own; that’s always the best way.

Is there any additional comments you’d like to make?

  • I want to thank everybody for their support. I look forward to coming back to North America. Go get the new record, and hopefully we’ll see you guys on tour very, very soon.

Well, I think I have what I need, so thanks a lot for that. Take care of yourself, and thanks a lot for your time.

  • Thank you. You take care and we’ll talk to you soon.

So, there’s Kamelot for you! Again, a thank you to Mr. Youngblood is in order. If they happen to be playing a local show, do not pass the opportunity. Hopefully, they stop by Edmonton, but I won’t hold it against them if they don’t. Their new album is Poetry of the Poisoned, and there is a review up on The Golden Bird – check it out.

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  1. October 9, 2010 at 7:58 am

    GREAT interview! Lots of interesting things discussed here. I enjoyed reading it!

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